Henry P. Kendall Foundation: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Kendall’s focus has shifted over the years, but has historically supported regional environmental work in New England. It’s currently giving solely to creating sustainable and resilient food systems, and Greater Boston is one of its big regional focuses. 

IP TAKE: This funder discourages unsolicited funding requests. However, they have become big supporters of efforts in Boston to establish locally sourced markets and food service operations, and improving overall access to healthy food produced nearby.

PROFILE: The Henry P. Kendall Foundation is the family foundation in the memory of the industrialist and philanthropist of the same name, who is known for his success with textile and other manufacturing companies. Kendall’s sons founded the philanthropy in 1957, and named it after their father upon his passing in 1959. 

Kendall has been roughly focused on the environment since the 1970s, but has shifted its goals a handful of times to address pressing issues of the day. For example, while the foundation was more concerned with land, water and wildlife in the 1970s, in the 1980s it moved over toward work on nuclear non-proliferation and arms control. In 1999, it moved into climate change, starting the nonprofit Clean Air-Cool Planet and then expanding to support several groups reducing greenhouse gas in the Northeast.

Then in 2009, it began prepping for another overhaul. The result was the New England Food System Program. 

Somewhere between a public health program and a climate change program (and a bit of conservation, actually) Kendall’s current focus is an increasingly common one—creating sustainable and resilient systems for how we get healthy, fresh food. 

The funder’s long-term goal, at least at a local level, is to get to the point that the majority of the food consumed in New England is produced there by the year 2060. 

Giving happens through a couple of strategies. Kendall gives to build a regional food system coordinated across six states. But it also backs local case studies in a few key areas—Greater Boston, Rhode Island, and the corridor from Greenfield, Massachusetts to new Haven, Connecticut. With its groundwork strategy, Kendall targets Greater Boston, Rhode Island, and the Route 91 corridor from Greenfield, Massachusetts to New Haven, Connecticut.

Since the program overhaul, Kendall has settled in to giving around $3 million to $3.5 million annually. Grantees under the new program comprise a mix of government agencies, nonprofits both regional and hyperlocal, and area universities and schools. 

Giving in Boston has gone to some pretty interesting projects, and while the focus is on the environment and health, the kinds of things they back have a lot of potential to improve Boston communities. 

For example, one of the biggest projects the Kendall food program has backed is the Boston Public Market Association. This nonprofit has been working to create what it plans to be the largest locally sourced market in the United States. The project is trying to revive the trade of local goods that existed in the city’s market district centuries ago, but which fell by the wayside. The funder gave $777,000 to the project one year to help secure matching funds from the state, and another $233,000 the year before.

Another example of a very local project is Dorchester Community Food Coop, which landed a $21,000 grant last year to help with the planning and feasibility study of a new cooperative market serving the neighborhood. 

Another large grantee was Bornstein and Pearl Food Production Center, which received $275,000 toward a $15 million fundraising campaign. The result was a 32,000-square-foot food production facility that served as a shared-use kitchen for local food businesses in the early stages of growth. The facility will reuse the former Bornstein and Pearl meat factory, also in Dorchester. 

The City of Boston has also received grants for improving its role in food systems, as have elementary schools, and the YMCA to improve access to healthy local foods for kids.

Local grantees have also included the Massachusetts Convergence Partnership ($10,000) and Westfield State University ($43,000). More recent awards can be viewed on the Grantseekers page of the funder's website.

While the foundation is quite transparent, with extensive information online about its intentions and past giving, it discourages organizations from approaching them to seek funding. That means any connecting with this funder will require some pavement pounding to develop ties and get board members’ and program staff’s attention. 

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